Alcohol

Alcohol is a drink made from the fermentation of grains (beer), vegetables (vodka) and fruits (wine) [34323]. The ingredient of ethanol (ethyl alcohol) contained in alcohol is the active ingredient that causes people to feel drunk when alcohol is consumed [34322]. Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, slowing down the messages between the brain and the body [23503].

What are the harms to health from alcohol use?

In small amounts, drinking alcohol can make a person feel relaxed and sociable [34322]. Larger amounts of alcohol affect muscle control, balance and decision making. People drinking large amounts of alcohol are more likely to have accidents or falls, get into fights or do things they regret [23503].

Over time, regular alcohol use contributes to the risk of serious health problems such as:

  • cancer of the mouth, throat and oesophagus
  • cardiovascular disease (stroke and heart failure)
  • liver disease (such as cirrhosis)
  • cognitive decline and dementia
  • mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression
  • increased problems with diabetes [34321][34320].

Drinking alcohol while pregnant can also harm the unborn baby [31432]. If a woman drinks while pregnant she risks having a baby with Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). For more information, please refer to the FASD section in the Health Impacts portal.

References

Key resources

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